Kudos to residents of the southeastern Baltimore Count community of Turners Station for their determined and heartening campaign to reopen their local public library. The facility was one of many victims of massive budget cuts announced last month by County Executive Roger Hayden.
Soliciting donations of thousands of books, the residents plan to resume operations soon in the community-owned building that had formerly housed the county-run branch. Local volunteers will staff the library when it reopens four days a week, says Peggy Patterson, president of Turners Station Concerned Citizens.
Likewise deserving praise are the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, area church groups, the Dundalk Food Mart and local alumnae of Smith College for contributing books as well as funds to purchase new publications.
The mini-libraries in Turners Station, Lansdowne, Edgemere, Jacksonville, Dundalk, Middle River, Wellwood and Owings Mills, along with the full-service Loch Raven branch, were closed in the "Black Thursday" cuts of Feb. 11. County officials justified the action by pointing out that the eight minis had the lowest borrowing rates in the subdivision. As for Loch Raven, the officials sized up the necessary physical repairs to the building and decided they would be too costly to absorb.
We supported the thinking behind this downsizing. We agreed with library director Charles Robinson that the system would become stretched beyond recognition if political pressure forced the county to keep all its branches open while Mr. Robinson's precious book-buying budget was slowly nibbled away by inflation and budget reductions.
If we had qualms about the move, they concerned how poor communities with few transportation options, such as mostly black Turners Station, were left high and dry. Others objected that every mini-library was shuttered except for the one in affluent Hereford, suggesting favoritism toward the powerful. The argument could be made, though, that the Hereford mini is needed to handle the large territory north of Cockeysville.
As the county keeps reducing citizen services, more efforts such as the one in Turners Station will have to be mounted. Organizers and helpers of this revamped library deserve to be congratulated for showing how the task can be done. Mrs. Patterson spoke volumes when she said, "We can't depend on Baltimore County any more. We have to depend on ourselves."